Monday, September 10, 2018

Spreading the Word, Help is Available in a Crisis

New signs on State Route 118 promote awareness of a suicide crisis line's toll-free number.
To encourage people to reach out for help in a time of crisis, and to promote public awareness of support services, Caltrans installed a new type of sign on State Route 118 in the city of Moorpark in Ventura County.

A total of 16 signs were placed on and near a high bridge in July 2018 informing people that help is available and providing the toll-free telephone number for a 24/7 suicide crisis support line.

The new message, in English and Spanish, grew out of a collaboration between Caltrans and Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, a nonprofit agency that provides a variety of services in Southern California.

Earlier, local government officials had asked Caltrans whether steps could be taken to prevent avoidable deaths, such as a fence along the long, curving bridge near the junction of State Routes 118 and 23 in eastern Ventura County.

Fencing, however, would block a driver's line of sight, raising safety concerns. So officials evaluated other possible measures.

The signs were created and installed in the hope of benefiting people who feel despondent, and their families and friends, as well as informing the public at large that such services are available.

The signs also could help prevent injury to others. Below the bridge are streets, pedestrians, bicyclists and railroad tracks that carry passenger and freight trains daily.

The signs are in English and Spanish since those languages are widely used in Southern California. Didi Hirsch Suicide Crisis Line counselors can serve callers in any language by using their translation services.

On July 12, Caltrans, with the assistance of the California Highway Patrol, attached 12 signs to the sides of the twin concrete structures -- facing traffic lanes. On July 5 and 6, Caltrans installed four ground-mounted signs visible to drivers approaching the bridge from either direction.

The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. September is National Suicide Prevention Month in the U.S.

Twin concrete structures comprise the Route 118 bridge over Princeton Avenue in Moorpark.